Working Paper No. 959

Small Business Activity Does not Measure Entrepreneurship

Published: March 6, 2013, revised January 2014Pages: 28Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Innovation; Institutions; Regulation; Self-employmentJEL-codes: L50; M13; O31; P14
Published version

Small Business Activity Does not Measure Entrepreneurship Magnus Henrekson and Tino Sanandaji


Entrepreneurship policy mainly aims to promote innovative "Schumpeterian" entrepreneurship. However, the rate of entrepreneurship is commonly proxied using quantity-based metrics, such as small business activity, the self-employment rate or the number of startups. We argue that those metrics give rise to misleading inferences regarding high-impact Schumpeterian entrepreneurship. In order to unambiguously identify high-impact entrepreneurs we focus on self-made billionaires (in USD) who appear in Forbes Magazine’s list and who became wealthy by founding new firms. We identify 996 such billionaire entrepreneurs in fifty countries in 1996–2010, a systematic cross-country study of billionaire entrepreneurs. The rate of billionaire entrepreneurs correlates negatively with self-employment, small business ownership and firm startup rates. Countries with higher income, higher trust, lower taxes, more venture capital investment and lower regulatory burdens have higher billionaire entrepreneurship rates but less self-employment. Despite its limitations, the number of billionaire entrepreneurs appears to be a plausible cross-country measure of Schumpeterian entrepreneurship.

Magnus Henrekson

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Interdisciplinary European Studies

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This book explores the complex and ever-changing relationship between the European Union and its member states. The recent surge in tension in this relationship has been prompted by the actions of some member state governments as they question fundamental EU values and principles and refuse to implement common decisions seemingly on the basis of narrowly defined national interests.

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